9Round can now be found in 20 countries, recently celebrating its first grand opening in Spain. Throughout 2019, the brand saw 104 grand openings, 31 of which occurred outside the U.S. and Canada.
Last year, the franchise also finalized agreements to develop in Vermont, and internationally in Colombia, Qatar, Indonesia and Vietnam. Today, it boasts around 800 locations worldwide.
Here, Shannon Hudson, the founder of 9Round, discusses the brand’s international success and its plans for growth moving forward.
CS: 9Round is now in 20 countries — how does it feel to have the brand resonate on a global level?
SH: It’s exciting. Movement translates everywhere in the world. I don’t have to speak the language of every country where 9Round plants its roots, because exercise is a universal language in and of itself.
CS: What are the biggest challenges of growing internationally?
SH: Franchise laws vary from country to country, making it tricky to fully understand and honor the legal requirements and intellectual property rights for doing business in a specific region. It’s also important to respect the customs and social norms of countries that may differ from where a franchisor traditionally operates. In 9Round’s case, we’ve had to evolve our brand in Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia by opening women-only 9Round studios, and we’ve had to change our marketing practices in Japan to emphasize strength-building more than weight loss. Both instances required us to modify our brand from its standard U.S. model.
CS: How do you find great operators?
SH: We make an effort to attend various trade shows and aggressively promote our franchise opportunities on the internet. But the prospects usually come to us when they’re interested, and then it’s a matter of thoroughly vetting them to make sure they’re the right fit for our system.
CS: What are your international expansion plans moving forward?
SH: We are currently working on finalizing deals in Vietnam, Brazil and Indonesia. Looking ahead, we have our sights set next on the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar.
CS: In 2019 you celebrated over 100 grand openings. What has attributed to 9Round’s growth? What are its keys to success?
SH: We have the right team in place, fueled by discipline and a crazy work ethic.
CS: What tips on growth can you share with other club operators?
SH: Focus on the micro so you can enjoy the macro. For instance, narrow your focus on helping one single customer get the best experience possible with your brand, then move on to helping the next, and the next. And before you know it, you have thousands of happy customers.
CS: How does it feel to see how far 9Round has come as an organization?
SH: We are very happy with how far we’ve come, but we are never satisfied. We’ve maintained the same “underdog” mindset we founded our business with, assuming we are falling behind or becoming sluggish if we’re not constantly growing. That hungry feeling we’ve had since Day 1 is what’s gotten us to where we are today, and it’s what keeps us winning.